By Femi Hileekan
The English Premier League resumed action again last weekend with hair raising performances, last gasp equalisers, fiercely fought derby and of course, a haul of goals. This piece reviews some lesson learned from what could be the most interesting league in the world.
1. Arsenal injury woes exposes lack of depth- Arsenal have their title aspirations dealt a blow early on with the series of injury that has plagued the squad early in the season. Last season the Gunners squandered a healthy seven-points lead in the title race through the traditional injury problems when key playmaker Mesut Ozil missed out on some of the most important games.
The absence of a viable replacement further dented their chances and saw them leave with a fourth place finish at the end, despite a promising start.
With the start of the new season, it was hoped that the recruitment of Shad Forsythe, the Germany National team fitness coach would help alleviate this problems. The recruitment, however, seems o be in vain as over the weekend, Aaron Ramsey ( suffering a hamstring injury) and Mikel Arteta ( suffering a calf injury) joined the likes of Mathieu Debuchy, Olivier Giroud and Theo Walcott who are all nursing long term injuries.
With a barely put together defence, Wenger would be hoping to avoid further injury setbacks as they play Galatasaray in the UEFA Champions League on Wednesday and Chelsea at the weekend.
2. Chelsea are genuine title contenders: Last season, which was Jose Mourinho’s first season back at the helm of affairs, the Portuguese said Chelsea would not be lifting the League trophy. Then he compared his team to a little horse that needed milk to grow. With a busy summer transfer window where they let off the surplus and brought in a striker, midfielder and defender, it seems the Blues have become a grown horse and are ready to wrest the title off Manchester City.
Diego Costa has apparently improved Chelsea’s chances as he scored eight goals in six appearances. With Cesc Fabregas orchestrating things from the middle, this Chelsea squad is one to watch.
3. Captainship takes its toll on Roo- It seems being captain is hard on Wayne Rooney as we see him revert to the sulky teen we used to know few years ago. Manchester United and Rooney’s day started well when the England international put United ahead with his 176th Premier League goal to send Old Trafford fans into raptures of delight. Robin van Persie doubled the advantage before Diafra Sakho pulled one back for the visitors. It, however, got worse as an unnecessary challenge against Downing in the second half saw the captain get his matching orders and ensured that the Red Devils fought tooth and nail to secure that tight scoreline.
Though Rooney in is his younger days was known to lash out especially when he did not get his way, it’s been years since the former Everton man received a red card for club duties. It seems the job of captain is a demanding one on the 28 year old. May be Louis van Gaal will need to reconsider after this. Last week, United crumbled to a 5-3 fall against Leicester City after they were reduced to 10 men.
4. Gerrard’s superb free kick proves experience is indispensable – Steven Gerrard’s free kick against Everton in the Merseyside derby was a statement; one which says I may be old but I can still deliver. Gerrard had a less than par performance at the World Cup in Brazil and his decision to retire was welcomed. The away fans were chanting about Steven Gerrard’s awful slip last season that led to a Demba Ba goal and eventually proved to be a blow that crushed their title hopes but he silenced them with a sumptuous free kick that he celebrated with gusto.
Phil Jagielka, however, ensured both sides shared the spoils with a scintillating strike deep into injury time. However, despite being in contrast to his old form, experience is a factor for every title winning team. Ask Chelsea how they felt when their reject Frank Lampard scored in the dying minutes to ensure that they share points with Manchester City who requested for the services of the veterans Frank Lampard at the expense of Chelsea.